The Bridge Tavern is becoming a firm favourite of mine, not only is it a very short stroll from my desk, but it also has an excellent selection of beers to choose from. For those who don’t know it, this was Newcastle’s first BrewPub (although others have opened since) and was the Great British Pub Awards Best Newcomer in Yorkshire, North East and Scotland. The shiny brewing equipment can be seen at the back of the bar with the fermenters all labelled with what’s being brewed which is a nice touch. They brew in small quantities, only servicing the bar which means they can be as experimental as they want to be as they wont be left with gallons and gallons of non-selling beer. Not that I would imagine they have much to worry about with that. I’ve had such delights as a rhubarb and custard gose, a Berlinnerweisse, a blood orange IPA and they have a steady house pale ale namely Taverale, which is a good go to beer for many of the fella’s I work with.
Working close by means we’ve had many excuses for lunch there. The food is really good, not just good pub grub, its really good and stands up to comparisons with any restaurant in the city. The great Melissa Cole had the chef with her for her beer and food matching session at Craft Beer Calling 2014. I don’t know the mechanics of the commercial dealings, but The Bridge Tavern is listed on the Beavertown website as the only Newcastle outlet for their beers.
I happened to be in the pub one day when I spotted a poster in the window for a meet the brewer session with Logan Plant of Beavertown brewery. Now Beavertown are a cool brewery. Everything about them is on trend, modern, edgy and down with the trumpets you dig. If you look at the elements which make up a breweries public image its not a great deal. Beers have small pump clips as one method of advertising, bottle labels is another, cans the same (more on that later), but then you’re looking at other areas to promote the brand. Social media is a massive vehicle for them these days. As a fan myself I use Twitter to keep up to date with what’s happening in the beer world. One of the best uses of social media I’ve seen in recent times was the viral video Beavertown used to promote their Jameson whiskey barrel aged stout Geronimo before its release.
Pure and simply cans are everything for Beavertown’s future. They are set to get rid of their bottling plant so they will be canning everything from there on in. Having spoken to Logan in the past about cans, he is a passionate supporter of what cans do for a beer ie protect it from the pesky blue spectrum light which reacts with certain chemicals given off by hops and ‘skunk’ your beer. Cans allow no light to get at the contents, whereas even brown bottles will allow light through. The reason this matters so much is that one of the problems breweries have is they rely on intermediaries to get their drink at home product to market. They spend their time meticulously protecting the integrity of the beer they produce and then put it in someone else’s hands to sell on to the customer. Now the great thing for me as a consumer has been the growth of the specialist beer shops, they know how to look after beer. However many outlets don’t and I know it’s a huge frustration for brewers if a customer judges a beer, and consequently a brewery, based on poorly handled stock. Cans will improve that by being less susceptible to being mis-handled. Therefore the breweries ultimate output in the customers eyes is more consistent.
I really like the Beavertown branding on the cans. The colours and images are perfect for cans and really pop out on the shelves, more so than the bottles used to in my opinion. I also think that the fact that they’re cans and therefore different helps. Beavertown weren’t the first UK brewery to get a canning line but they were the first to really push the benefits of cans to the consumer. When I spoke to Logan he did admit that he felt it had been a huge gamble which could well have fallen flat on its face and he’s right, there was always that possibility. Personally I think there are many reasons why it would be a success. There’s the cool factor of the brewery, the cost effectiveness of cans (transport and cost to buy for the brewer), the profile that Beavertown themselves already have in the UK craft beer market and the most significant factor of all, the quality of the beer produced. Let’s face it no matter how well you package it, you cant build a sustainable business with poor products.
So anyway, my Scottish pal Doody and I went along to see Logan and had a great night. The evening was set off with a Q&A session with Logan during which he talked about his background in beer and how the Beavertown we know today got started (its only 3 years old…) and what his ambitions are for the future. Most significant here is that big sales aren’t his goal, instead he wants to produce the best beer he can produce, focussing on constantly improving the quality of the beer and having a whole lot of fun along the way.
On arrival I was handed a can of Gamma Ray which was very welcome. Everyone knows Gamma, everyone likes it. It’s the UK’s highest profile craft pale ale. Its the benchmark for other breweries. Its many peoples favourite pale ale, and although not mine, I do love it. It’s a classic #juicybanger.
But they had set up a small bar with 5 taps on it at the back of terrace, with some of Beavertown’s more speciality beers and what superb beers they were!
First up I went for Bloody Ell, their Blood orange IPA. Heavily hopped IPA’s can be very citrus laden which slaps you in the face but is tasty and juicy at the same time. Surely adding actual citrus fruit would work a treat right? I was expecting an overwhelming orange hit but actually the orange is incredibly well balanced and subtle. Don’t get me wrong this is very much orange flavoured but it’s perfectly pitched to get the most out of the fruit flavour and the hop bitterness.
Next I gave the Appleation a go. This is the beer that had to change its name having originally been named after a region in France known for its sparkling wine. This is a sparkling apple beer and is light, refreshing and spritzy. It’s a very accessible beer, like drinking alcoholic appetizer but perhaps not as forceful with the apples. Again, very well balanced and a real credible beer.
Holy Cowbell for me was the least interesting of the beers. It’s a 5.6% India Stout although Im not sure of the difference between an India Stout and a Black IPA. This has the roasted malts as a background flavour to a hoppy hit. It’s a really good tasty beer but unfortunately in this company my focus is on the heavy hitters around it.
Londonerweisse is a brilliant take on a classic berlinnerweisse. A collaboration brew with Dogfish Head brewery and The East London Liquor Company this is a wheat orientated sour and is packed with that refreshing zing that a good berlinerweisse give you.
Moose Fang is an Imperial India Brown weighing in at 8.6% abv and is all the better for it. It’s a big flavoured hopped brown ale and that boozy edge ties it all together nicely. Im a big fan of boozy beers, often that booziness brings out the best in the malts, obviously because its created from the malts themselves.
Which brings me nicely onto the star of the show for me. Beavertown heavy water is a imperial stout at 9% and is as smooth as velvet, packed choc full of roasted flavours with their hints of coffee, chocolate, treacle all married together with delicious mouthfeel. I love this beer, I love beers like this. Imperial stouts and hopbomb IPA’s compete on a regular basis to be my favourite style of beer. They couldn’t be more different in my mind though. Its all about the scenario. Next fad, beer and scenario matching! I drink hoppy IPA’s for that refreshing hit, I drink imperial stouts as a relaxing nightcap. Late night, sat infront of an open fire, slowly sipping away at the smooth velvet texture.
In summary, I must say many thanks to The Bridge Tavern for organising, to Beavertown for supplying such good beer and to Logan for being good craick!